with Classixx and Nile Delta
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Feeling alive is feeling a pulsating bassline deep in your chest. Australian electro-rock outfit Cut Copy brought plenty of their relentlessly upbeat rhythms and life-affirming jams to First Avenue on Wednesday night, turning the club into a nonstop dance party that had everyone freeing their minds and getting down.
Throughout the quartet's vibrant 80-minute set, they had the crowd in the palm of their hands, setting them off with synth-laden hooks that borrowed equally from the musical styles of the past 30 years.
The band took to the stage bathed in tranquil blue lights, as they eased into the simmering charms of "We Are Explorers." Frontman Dan Whitford served as a rousing cheerleader and ringleader for the sonic circus. He held his hands aloft to not only connect further with the crowd, but to also clue them in that the beat was about to drop.
Cut Copy haven't played Minneapolis since a First Ave gig with Holy Ghost in 2011, so they had a lot of lost time to make up for. A majority of the start of the show was dedicated to Free Your Mind material, the band's celebrated, psych-drenched 2013 album that was inspired by the Summers of Love in both San Francisco in 1967 and London in 1988-89. With "free your mind" emblazoned in bold lowercase Helvetica on a large screen behind the band, songs like the title track and "In Memory Capsule" unfolded dynamically, with the latter taking on an Erasure-like pulse that gradually gave way to a cacophonous wall of guitar feedback.
The well-paced set continued fluidly, with barely a break for the dancing crowd to catch their collective breath. The dexterous band -- rounded out by Tim Hoey on guitar/keys/sampler, Mitchell Scott on drums, and Ben Browning on bass/percussion -- expertly straddle many different genres with their sound, oftentimes within the same song. A track like "So Haunted" bounces between the punk-fueled chaos of their discordant guitars but still manages to be quite catchy and danceable. The Pet Shop Boys-esque "Hearts on Fire" infuses an infectious disco beat into a mercurial synth-driven sound that blossoms majestically into a spirited anthem that everyone -- from pop lovers to hard rock fans to goth introverts -- can all groove along to.
Cut Copy are what New Order might have sounded like had they grown up in the sunny, waterfront modern elegance of Melbourne instead of the bleak, rainy urban moodiness of eternally grey Manchester (and without Joy Division's dark, tragic origins). Their songs all are easy to connect with, especially massive, affection-laden odes on the new album like "Let Me Show You Love" and "Meet Me in a House of Love," which served as buoyant, warmhearted bookends to In Ghost Colours' epic lead-off track, "Feel the Love."
"One of the first records my parents ever played for me was a jazz album recorded live in Minneapolis," Whitford announced affectionately during a brief mid-set break. "So I've always been intrigued by this city, and I never thought that I'd ever get a chance to play my own music here." (Sadly, he never said specifically what that album was.) A rousing, triumphant version of the Bright Like Neon Love jam, "Saturdays," served as a rousing thank-you from Whitford to a city that helped spark his musical discovery, and the club rightfully responded by truly losing their shit. It was a madhouse on the floor, with the front of the stage awash in raised hands and gyrating bodies. It was beautiful.
The main set came to a towering, irrepressible end with a dynamic version of their 2008 hit single, "Lights and Music," which featured a glorious sonic tension and the eventual grand, propulsive release that had everyone in the club feeling the creative energy from the band. It was such a brilliant version that the following encore seemed more like a cool down from that scintillating high than a continuation of that relentless momentum.
Both "Nobody Lost, Nobody Found" and set closer "Need You Now" had a driving beat to them, but neither of them reached the zestful peak of "Lights and Music." In fact, the tranquil oceanic images projected behind the band during "Need You Now" seemed to signify that this epic journey that the band had taken us on was coming to an end, and we had to find our own way home from here. What an intoxicating sonic journey it was.
Personal Bias: While I haven't listened to much Cut Copy over the years, I have always heard that they are an incredible live band. Now I have proof.
The Crowd: While it wasn't quite a full house, those who were there were ready to get loose, and their continual energetic dancing certainly helped make the mid-week show feel more like a Friday-night gig.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I'm perfectly drunk for this show."
Random Notebook Dump: While the large screen behind the band didn't offer up much to enhance the show at the start other than the "free your mind" command, the visuals grew in intensity as the show wore on, and really added a dramatic, psychedelic vibe to the end of the show.
We Are Explorers
Take Me Over
Free Your Mind
Where I'm Going
In Memory Capsule
Hearts on Fire
Feel the Love
Out There on the Ice
Let Me Show You Love
Meet Me in a House of Love
Lights and Music
-- Encore --
Nobody Lost, Nobody Found
Need You Now
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